These Black Students Are Being Punished For Their Braids At A Massachusetts Charter School

Twin students Deanna and Mya Cook have faced multiple detentions for their hairstyles.

Deanna and Mya Cook
Photo Credit: Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Boston Globe

| May 15 2017,

6:33 pm

Looks like there's yet another attack on blackness in the school system.

This time, black students at the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, Massachusetts are the target. Per a report from the Boston Globe, several students have been punished for wearing braids since April. The punishments included detention and suspension for violating the school's dress code. 

Two Mystic Valley students in particular, twins Deanna and Mya, have received multiple detentions and could face suspension for their braids. According to their mother, Colleen Cook, the twin girls have also been kicked out of after-school sports and banned from the prom for refusing to remove their braids.

“They teach them at a very high academic level and I appreciate that, and that’s why they go to the school,” Cook said. “But, unfortunately, they don’t have any sensitivity to diversity at all.” The objections have come to a surprise to Cook, who stated that the punishments didn't come up until late April of this year after the students returned from spring break. Per Cook, administrators went so far as to target black and biracial children by marching them down the hall to inspect their hair. 

The Mystic Valley Regional Charter School released this official statement in regards to their braids ban:

“One important reason for our students’ success is that we purposefully promote equity by focusing on what unites our students and reducing visible gaps between those of different means. Our policies, including those governing student appearance and attire, foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion, or materialism. Our policy on hair extensions, which tend to be very expensive, is consistent with, and a part of, the educational environment that we believe is so important to our students’ success.”

As far as the twins, Cook is currently seeking assistance from the NAACP and the state’s Anti-Defamation League. The latter met with school administrators this past Friday.

Hopefully, there is a justifiable resolution to all of this. Given that protective styles such as braids have little to do with "showing off" and more to do with maintaining an easier hairstyle for a longer period of time, I hope the administrators come to their senses and come to some sort of compromise, as it seems that the tension behind this is what is distracting students focusing on their educations — not three-strands of twisted hair.